Cast­ing a fresh eye over the Mis­sion 70 MKIIS

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Back in the early 1980s, Mis­sion was a young, fast-grow­ing and fiercely am­bi­tious com­pany. While it had just launched a turntable, arm, car­tridge and an am­pli­fier in a short amount of time, speak­ers re­mained its core busi­ness.

The orig­i­nal Mis­sion 70s were an early at­tempt at a bud­get box. But, rather sur­pris­ingly, con­sid­er­ing Mis­sion’s form at the time, these stand­moun­ters dis­ap­pointed, largely thanks to a medi­ocre, con­gested per­for­mance and in­sub­stan­tial build. The com­par­a­tively poor re­views that fol­lowed didn’t help sales ei­ther.

Lit­tle more than a year later, the MKII ver­sion was launched and, even though it shared the same model num­ber and clamshell ap­pear­ance, pretty much every­thing was changed. There was a stronger, more rigid cab­i­net, a new Mis­sion-badged 18cm pa­per-cone mid/bass unit to go with the 19mm Vifa dome tweeter, and re­vised in­ter­nal ca­bling link­ing to an up­rated cross­over net­work. The re­sult from all this work was a sonic trans­for­ma­tion – in 1983, the 70 MKIIS be­came one of the bud­get class lead­ers, and all for just £89.

To­day, it’s the un­usual con­struc­tion that grabs our at­ten­tion. The cab­i­net is made in two halves, and is held to­gether by the four screws vis­i­ble on the back panel. Take the 70s apart and it’s clear that these are rel­a­tively sim­ple beasts. The cross­over is mounted di­rectly on the back of the single-wire ter­mi­nal panel rather than on a sep­a­rate board, which not only kept costs down but helps per­for­mance thanks to a more di­rect sig­nal path.

The drive units on our three-decade-old sam­ples still look in good con­di­tion and work well. These Mis­sions were an early ex­am­ple of the brand’s now trade­mark ar­range­ment of putting the tweeter be­low the mid/bass driver. Even cur­rent Mis­sion de­signs, such as the Award-win­ning QX-2S, stay loyal to the in­verted lay­out be­cause of its claimed ad­van­tages of in­te­gra­tion and time align­ment. Un­like most mod­ern speak­ers, the 70s are a sealed-box de­sign, so there’s no re­flex port to help tune the low fre­quen­cies. While this has an im­pact on low-end weight and power han­dling – the Mis­sions are rated for amps up to 60W – this de­sign also has ben­e­fits in terms of bass tim­ing and agility.

No wor­ries

We aren’t sure what to ex­pect when we con­nect up the Mis­sions. Speak­ers have ad­vanced a lot over the years, be­com­ing cleaner, less dis­torted and more de­tailed. It turns out we needn’t have wor­ried – the 70 MKIIS still shine, de­liv­er­ing a per­for­mance that in some ways im­presses even to­day.

How­ever, they aren’t per­fect. Put them up against any good cur­rent bud­get speak­ers, such as the Dali Spek­tor 2s or the Q Acous­tics 3010is, and it’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that there are short­falls in sonic pre­ci­sion and ab­so­lute de­tail lev­els. The newer speak­ers go louder, and de­spite be­ing no­tably smaller than the 35cm high Mis­sions, dig into the lows with far greater punch and au­thor­ity. They have a de­gree of com­po­sure and con­trol that the old timers just can’t match.

But the Mis­sions have con­sid­er­able strengths of their own. The 70s still sound im­pres­sively fast and fluid. They de­liver low-level dy­nam­ics with con­sid­er­able skill and ren­der voices with clar­ity and ar­tic­u­la­tion that still pleases.

Po­si­tioned a lit­tle out into our test room and fir­ing straight ahead rather than aim­ing at the lis­ten­ing po­si­tion, the MKIIS de­liver an ex­pan­sive stereo im­age. It’s large and spa­cious, fill­ing the space be­tween the speak­ers ef­fort­lessly. It’s a fairly sta­ble im­age too, and nicely lay­ered with it.

“Nearly four decades on, the Mis­sion 70 MKIIS sound as en­ter­tain­ing as ever. They make lis­ten­ing to mu­sic fun – we can ask for no more than that”

For­ward think­ing

Tonally, these Mis­sions sound just a touch for­ward at high fre­quen­cies but have a sense of so­lid­ity and body through the midrange that we en­joy. We lis­ten to Nick Cave’s Push The Sky

Away set, and the Mis­sions do a won­der­ful job with Cave’s grav­elly vo­cals on the ti­tle track. The 70s set the mood beau­ti­fully, car­ry­ing the steady, puls­ing mo­men­tum of the mu­sic well. There isn’t the low-end ex­ten­sion or weight we would now ex­pect, but the Mis­sions have enough in the way of au­thor­ity higher up the fre­quency range to sound bal­anced. We switch to some­thing more up­beat, in the form of Beyoncé’s All Night Long, and the MKIIS de­liver a good dose of rhyth­mic drive and have the dy­namic free­dom to ren­der the horn sec­tion with en­thu­si­asm. They sound lively and ex­cit­ing, and have the knack of mak­ing us for­get about hi-fi and con­cen­trate on the mu­sic in­stead. Some­times when we lis­ten to prod­ucts from pre­vi­ous decades, we come away a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed. These once revered com­po­nents quite of­ten just don’t stand up in cur­rent terms. The sense of dis­ap­point­ment is so real that it can be hard to un­der­stand why they were so ven­er­ated in the first place. These Mis­sions aren’t like that. Nearly four decades on from launch they con­tinue to sound as mu­si­cal and en­ter­tain­ing as ever. Sure the best cur­rent speak­ers are eas­ily su­pe­rior when it comes to tonal­ity, de­tail and pre­ci­sion – but, lis­ten­ing to the Mis­sions, we just don’t care. They make lis­ten­ing to mu­sic fun, and we can ask for no more than that.

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